Did you overload on Easter candy this spring season? While it’s hard to avoid sugar altogether, especially during holidays, moderation is key. We’ve all heard that sugar is bad for your teeth, but why exactly? Sugar causes tooth decay-but how?

Well, there’s a bit of good news-sugar does not directly affect your teeth. Acids are the culprit behind cavities and tooth decay, and sugars react with certain bacteria in your mouth that can then cause acid build up. While sugar does contribute to acid build up in the mouth, it is not the only cause and not even the worst.

Certain breaded foods which are classified as fermentable carbohydrates are actually the leading producers of acids in the mouth. These foods are easily broken down which gives bacteria in the mouth more of an opportunity to feast on them and create more acid.

If sugar is not the main culprit then, do you need to avoid it? Popular opinion says-no! But you do need to keep a balance of what goes in your mouth to work toward constantly balancing the acids with minerals. Your saliva produces minerals that help balance the pH level in your mouth, and there are ways to help balance your pH levels:

Neutralize acids with high pH foods

Eating foods with a higher pH, while acids have a lower pH, will help balance your mouth’s pH level. Higher pH foods are water, cheese, and most vegetables.

Stay hydrated

Saliva is naturally remineralizing, so staying hydrated will help create a pH balance. Dry mouth is a hotbed for bacteria to create acid.

Manage sugar intake

Since we are looking to minimize acid build up, managing how you take sugar will help. It’s better to ingest more sugar all at once (i.e. dessert after dinner) rather than consistently all day (i.e. sipping on soda or snacking on candy throughout the day). This will minimize your mouth’s exposure to sugar over long periods of time, lessening the acid build up.

Minimize grain foods in the diet

Crackers and breads that create more acid than other foods should be avoided, or least taken in moderation. You should also rinse your mouth out with water after eating these or other sticky foods. The longer food particles stay in your teeth, the more opportunity they will have to create acids.

Chew sugar-free gum

While chewing gum stimulates salivation, thus preventing dry mouth, some also have xylitol, which helps reduce mouth bacteria.

These are a few suggestions to get you started, but always remember to consult with your dentist on their expert opinion!